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Government support essential to meet rigid plastic packaging recycling targets, says Axion Consulting

Strong Government support is vital to help boost investor confidence in the waste-to resource sector and develop the infrastructure required to meet the revised 57% plastic packaging recycling target by 2017, according to resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting.

Axion Director Keith Freegard asserts that careful monitoring and control of the economic drivers will also be needed to ensure investment in new sorting capacity and re-processing plants matches rising volumes from local authority kerbside collections.

"The UK infrastructure is adapting to deal with the greater mix of plastic types from householders, but what is needed is a solid and well-thought out growth plan across the whole waste packaging supply chain to maintain this positive momentum," he says.

His comments follow the publication of WRAP’s guide for local authorities on collecting and recycling rigid plastic packaging (pots, tubs and trays), which was produced with support from Axion and AMEC, an environmental and engineering consultancy.

This guide seeks to explain the opportunities and challenges associated with targeting these materials at the kerbside (commonly alongside plastic bottles) and gives information on how they are handled within MRFs (materials recovery facilities) and PRFs (plastic recovery facilities), the export market and key communications considerations. Around 90% (over a million tonnes) of rigid plastic packaging is not recycled currently, despite studies showing a willingness among householders to recycle this material.

The guide also includes case studies on local authorities and companies that have found ways to ensure the material is positively recycled, which depends on downstream infrastructure being configured to handle this material. There remain challenges associated with films and black plastic packaging, which are the focus of other WRAP-funded work.

Axion’s research has shown that where bottles plus other mixed plastics are accepted, a higher overall capture rate for kerbside separated plastics is achieved. However, concerns remain over how to optimise collection methods to minimise cross-contamination from other polymers, thereby ultimately maximising the value of packaging streams collected for recycling.

A prominent list of industry stakeholders including local authorities, waste management companies and recyclers/reprocessors attended a workshop that helped identify the key issues affecting the management of rigid plastic packaging in the recycling supply chain.

"Their positive input and the combination of AMEC and our partner Axion’s expert knowledge of the subject area have all contributed to the guide," comments Geoff Sampson, AMEC Associate Director.

Axion Consulting is part of the Axion Group that develops and operates innovative resource recovery and processing solutions for recycling waste materials. The Group works with a wide range of clients, from Government agencies and local authorities to companies in diverse commercial sectors, on the practical development of new processing and collection methods to recover value from waste resources.

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